With an early start to the off-season, the Dodgers’ many needs have made themselves all the clearer, especially relief pitching. Despite actually having a pretty solid bullpen going into the 2019 playoffs, there’s no question it needs additional retooling to be more trustworthy from the get go in 2020.
I already examined the potential upside of buying low on old friend Brandon Morrow. However, if there is just one reliever Los Angeles should pluck off the market, it’s free agent San Francisco Giants lefty Will Smith.
After a steady upwards trajectory since debuting in 2012 for Kansas City, Smith put his tools together to their highest potential in 2019 for SF. He was a perfect 6-0 with a 2.76 ERA, notching 34 saves. For his efforts, he earned his first All-Star selection.
Worth noting, he also did considerably better facing left-handed batters than righties this year. Those on the left side of the batter’s box mustered just .157 against him, with only one home run and one walk. Righties, meanwhile, hit nine home runs and .212, which isn’t too much of a disparity.
In terms of pitching arsenal, Smith primarily utilizes a four seam fastball and slider, with a curveball mixed in. His slider generates lots of swing-and-miss movement from batters, while his curveball induces lots of groundballs. He also possesses a highly effective changeup that he rarely uses.
Age is another upside. Especially in a reliever market of pitchers well into their mid-30s, Smith just turning 30 this past July makes him one of the younger choices available. Given his left-handedness and work as a closer, he could also be versatile in both of these capacities given the Dodgers’ struggles with both the past two seasons.
There will be trivial remarks about the Dodgers’ history of signing ex-Giants, most of whom end up being risible busts in Chavez Ravine a la Jason Schmidt and Brian Wilson. There’s no denying that precedent, but that’s not really a sound case against Smith. He’s a crafty lefty in his prime, and would be a wise investment after the underwhelming Scott Alexander and the perennially injured Tony Cingrani.
By every measure, this is a must-have acquisition for the Dodgers this off-season. Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon are the deal-breaker targets, but the bullpen cannot be neglected like it has the past two off-seasons and trade deadlines. With a couple of solid additions, it could become a clear strength rather than a weakness.
Will Smith strikes out Will Smith.
It's a save for… Will Smith.
Giants beat the Dodgers.
All of these things just happened. pic.twitter.com/0GTudroczb
— Yahoo Sports MLB (@MLByahoosports) September 7, 2019
Plus…we could have Will Smith pitching to Will Smith, perhaps with Will Smith in attendance. You know you want it.